business, Uncategorized

Dining In Dining Out

I sat down to write this post and came into a few roadblocks. Nothing major just my perception or perspective. I decided this was important to write about.

In a recent post Chick 2 referenced her vantage point in the restaurant industry as a family-owned business. My post today will be as a patron.

I dined out a few times at local establishments during the pandemic shutdown. My hopes were to make an impact and to break up the mundane on the home front. It worked for the most part.

I bought pastries from a local bakery. I bought curbside pickup at a chain and tipped big. I took to go orders at the small mom-and-pops. I even hit a franchise or two.

Now that things are starting to open up I decided to dine out. Well my first choice was closed. A bigger chain but one of my favs. I looked for another local fav spot that a friend managed and that too was closed for dine in. Then I thought well I’ll just grab something elsewhere with disappointment.

When all was crumbling around me with lack of options I saw a Mexican place open that I had never been to. I decided to give it a shot. I was pleasantly surprised.

As I entered the facility I saw floor markings noting 6 feet apart. I saw a plastic protector by the hostess stand. I saw a make shift to-go pickup area with tables in use that were normally for dining. It seemed odd.

I took my seat. I observed. Every other booth was taped off for my protection. Tables were spread apart in the floor area. The servers were masked like healthcare workers. Does that kill your vibe to eat food? I was just rolling with the experience.

I couldn’t stop watching the to-go area. It had a table lined with to-go margaritas. Filled in 1/2 gallon milk jug type containers. They were labeled and sealed but never would I have seen this pre-corona. They sold like hot cakes with the to-go order. Interesting concept to generate revenue and make do with the new normal.

It was hard to understand the waiter. Was he annoyed or smiling? So many thoughts crossed my mind. The food arrived. It was delicious. My worries went away with the comfort and presentation of the meal.

Fresh cut slivers of avocado were the highlight of my meal. Fresh chips and salsa. The sounds of conversations and other humans around me. It was a new normal and a bit weird but it was a good first step. These are the vibes you can’t replace at home. And no clean up!

Mother’s Day came and went. A holiday normally spent at a restaurant but not this year. Nobody in my family wanted to dine out. A barbecue at home it was for this family. A picnic for another group I knew. A day on the lake for others. A work day for others whose family runs a restaurant.

I wondered about the financial effects of not only corona but on the restaurant industry itself on such a day like Mother’s Day. Some of these establishments need those holiday highs to maintain the lulls of other parts of the year.

I will continue to eat out when I can. If my budget allows. If my community stays open. If opportunity presents itself. So many ifs in the world today.

Are you dining in or out today?

business, challenges

A View From Behind the Mask

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I don’t bring it up often, but my family is in the restaurant business.  My husband and I met when I came to work at his family’s restaurant when I was 20 years old. I was taking a mental health break from college for a semester and needed a job, so I stumbled in to a local restaurant and ended up working there on and off for over a decade.  That’s a story for another time.

Suffice it to say, I have worked the front of the house in a restaurant for a lot of my life.  Server, bartender, hostess, manager, banquet server, retail sales, I’ve done it.  I have learned that it is not the life for me. (Add that to the list of stories for another time.)  Still, my husband’s restaurant is a huge part of our family economy, so there are certain days every year when I go to work and pitch in. Father’s Day, Oktoberfest celebrations, and so on.  Mother’s Day is usually one of those days.

As you likely know, the restaurant business has been radically changed by the COVID-19 pandemic.  Many establishments are closed.  Others are trying take-out, delivery, family-style offerings, and whatever else they can cook up. Heck, some are even offering grocery-style shopping. Pivoting quickly to focus on survival.

It was just recently that Georgia decided to allow restaurant dining rooms to open with detailed, extensive safety measures and very limited capacity.  We are lucky to have a restaurant with a large dining room. Other restaurants may not even be able to try to open their dining areas just because of the safety measures and square footage requirements.

This Mother’s Day was the first time our dining room had been open in well over a month.  My daughter and I were pinch hitting to help things run smoothly. Here are just a few of the rules: Paper menus instead of plastic sleeves so they could be disposed of each use. Gloves…I think I changed my gloves 50 times during a 6-hour shift. No bringing pitchers to the table to refill any drinks.  Just bring a new fresh glass. Spread guests out at every third table or so.  No groups over six people, which is often the minimum number for many tables on Mother’s Day at our place. Deep cleaning all surfaces…we scrubbed tabletops and every part of every chair anyone touched with sanitizer all shift. Since we couldn’t use our typical tablecloths, this was a lengthy chore. When done, we left a card on the table letting customers know it had been thoroughly cleaned.

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Maybe the biggest change was the masks.  I had a coworker from my school make me cloth masks to wear a while ago.  They are more or less comfortable.  They are much better than the awkward constricting bandana I tried at the beginning of corona. Still, after a while with the mask on you find yourself breathing differently.  It’s always sweaty and warm under there.  I was breathing more heavily, like I was working out or something, after just a minute with the mask on.  It was a relief to take it off every once in a while, or just let my nose peek out for 30 seconds or so.  Apparently it’s even worse if you wear glasses.

I wondered, could people tell if I was smiling at them? I do smile with my eyes but I’m still not sure. (No comment on my overgrown eyebrows which are tragic, or the bags under my eyes!) I wore more eye makeup thinking that would be the part people could see.

I learned quickly that most guests couldn’t understand what I was saying, so I spoke less and less as the shift wore on.  I hardly wished anyone Happy Mother’s Day, which is usually a big part of my job being the “Comfortable Committee” on those days.  I suppose I was just caught up in the strangeness of it all.  It didn’t feel festive.  Not many dressed for church.  No tables filled with gifts or flowers for the Moms. Only a handful of photos taken. The dining rooms weren’t crammed with smiling faces.  (And we are usually wall-to-wall with a waiting list for hours on Mother’s Day.)  It felt tense, with our focus on staying safe and sterile over warm and welcoming. It is what is needed right now. We want our customers to feel safe with us. Still, it is very different than the atmosphere in most years.

Just an insider’s view of what it’s like to work in a restaurant for Mother’s Day during the pandemic. Thankfully, we had quite a few people dine with us and many families took brunch and sweets to go.  This daily income is truly a lifeline for your local restaurants.

Sadly, when I got home from working, I read a long string of complaints and disappointments on social media from people who had waited hours for food ordered from major chains. Steakhouses, southern cooking, seafood, you name it.  All took enormous numbers of online orders and the system broke down.  People waited and waited, no one answering the phone, no one updating them.  When only a few miles away we had tables sitting empty and cooks and servers ready to make great food! It won’t always be perfect, but please give your local places a chance.

Our family’s place has been the site of engagements, weddings, showers, celebrations of all kinds and so many other special occasions. Please support those quirky, unique little places now.  Support the ones that hold your memories, even if it is a little strange to do these days.  If they are able to open at all, they are likely working their tails off to keep you safe and keep their business alive and employees working.  If you can, please dine with your favorite local places! Support the places you want to see come out the other side of this challenge with your dollars, your social media buzz, and any other support you can offer.

 

 

adventure, balance, inspire

Nature Therapy

If you recall we posted a digital doomsday blog and noted all the negative vibes around what’s missing these days from the school experience from a teen daughter’s perspective. All the time stuck with eyes glued to a laptop. No time to move between classes. No friends to laugh with.

However, after reflecting on the extra time available to take a walk with my daughter outside because of the “downtime” in our schedule and her lack of spending time with friends or at sports activities, a different vantage point appeared. Again a negative turned positive. Below is a great pic we snagged on a late night stroll together. We are embracing nature in a way we never have before. Just listening to birds chirp in the morning is a new kind of peaceful way to start the day. Very different than how life started a month ago and hopefully different than next month but for today we are embracing what options one can celebrate.

One wish for us is that the vast majority of people would or could look past themselves and their immediate discomforts during this pandemic and see the sunshine that is around the corner. It may not be the brightest sunshine but even every sliver of light can be embraced in the darkest hour.

If even just a few people out out there choose nature as a stress relief today it can spread. Think about others as well. Your aura reflects on others. A joyous smile is infectious when you pass somebody at the park from 6 feet way. It’s free and simple and may be the one interaction that person has that day. It could be mind altering that day. There is always somebody in a worse situation than you despite what you see right in front of you. Pass on the positives during this dark time.

As we write this, Spring is springing forth in the USA. Color is starting to dapple the landscape. Flowers are beginning their parade of blooms. Here’s a tip: find some local flower growers and follow them on social media. If your feeds are full of gloom and doom, trim those folks back (mute them or unfollow) and add some beauty to your screen.

Even better, reach out to flower farmers near you and see if you can connect that way. Farmers near us, used to relying on farmer’s markets or florists, are now offering porch deliveries or pre-orders to open air markets. These small local farmers are suffering from the breakdown of routines and supply chains just as many other businesses are. They are forced to innovate on nature’s timeline. Many can offer you bunches of exquisite little treasures that you can enjoy and share with others. Here’s a recent pickup we enjoyed, and supported a couple of small businesses in the process.

As we have said in many ways at many times, you become who and what you surround yourself with. Get out and surround yourself with fresh air. Bright, warm sunshine. Sweet breezes. Walk your feet on fresh grass. If you’re having trouble getting out of your head or you’re feeling anxious, do a 5 senses countdown exercise out in the world. Clear your mind and notice what is happening in nature. Surround yourself with reminders that time continues on.

New life is coming. Even though part of nature is going haywire at the moment, much of it is marching in its usual rhythm. Bees are buzzing. Baby ducks and bunnies will soon appear at local parks. The earth is waking up from its yearly nap. Let this reassure you that this dark season will also pass. In the mean time, don’t miss the things we are often too busy to notice.

This post is dedicated tho those full of raw emotions relating to Coronavirus. We all have them. We opt to share ours with the world via a blog. Our posts are edited multiple times and viewed by others subjectively before going live. Although only one vantage point, it may help somebody reading along.

Nature therapy has worked for us during this crazy time. Walks in our community. Short jogs. Bike riding. Gardening. Swimming. Kayaking. Hiking. All activities that allow physical distancing while embracing nature. Chick 1 even climbed a few trees.

We don’t need to be confined to our four walls to be safe. We can be distant and enjoy nature. Opt outside when you can.